Bugbrooke to Banbury

Trip Start Apr 26, 2011
Trip End Oct 31, 2011

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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Mon 26th September

James returned the hire car to the base in Daventry, and was driven back to Bugbrooke. After a short while we set off and after twenty minutes, who should we see? Pipedream! Heading in the opposite direction. They moor at Stowe Hill not far away so we shouldn't be surprised.  We paused there for fuel – 83p per litre, not bad.  Whilst there we saw BCF boat Barnaby going past. They moor at Gayton Marina.

We passed through Weedon, after which the canal gets very noisy with the railway, the A5 and the M1 all running along together. We arrived at Whilton and paused for lunch.  We shared the Whilton / Buckby locks with a boat called Come Along, and then filled the water tank and emptied the cassette at the top lock. Further along we moored by Bridge 10 just after Norton Junction, out of earshot of the M1. We found First Fruits there with David and Vivienne Bull from BCF.  We had tea on their boat, which we had not seen before as it was new. David is the publicity officer for BCF, a job that James used to do.

Tue 27th September

It was foggy this morning to start with. After First Fruits left, heading for Market Harborough, we found two other BCF boats in the short line: Petula and Alpha.  We chatted to Peter and Ursula on Petula, whom we have met before. They are bell ringers.  Alpha was not listed in the BCF members list, and although the guy inside waved at us, he did not come out to talk.

We set off for Braunston Tunnel, where we had to wait with two other boats because a wide beam boat was coming through.  We met no other boats in the tunnel, and we shared the six Braunston locks with Polestar.  We managed to buy some Elsan double blue from Midland Chandlers. Not everywhere stocks it as it is more expensive than other makes, but it lasts longer and works better. We then had to reverse a few yards to Braunston Turn – fortunately no boats came along just then.

There are a lot of people living on their boats in the first mile of the section from Braunston to Napton.  It seems as though the numbers have increased from two years ago when we last came this way. 

We moored in open countryside near Flecknoe with sunshine and a beautiful view.

Wed 28th September

A glorious sunny morning as we made an early departure. We had heard that there might be queues on the Napton locks as the times have been restricted due to water shortages.  We passed Wigrams Turn where the Grand Union heads north and we headed south on the Oxford Canal. Before the locks there is a large field with an assortment of horses, cows, donkeys and what appears to be a red deer.

We managed to be first at the locks, although two other boats were following soon after.  Most of them were in our favour although some had half filled overnight from leaky top gates.  At the top we filled our water tank.  Slipstream came past, with Chrissie’s friend at the helm, to head down the locks.

We continued on the summit pound in glorious sunshine, and we moored near bridge 125 with lovely views.  We watched the sun go down and saw some hares in a field.  We had heard that Don and Celia on Tumzul Cloud were heading north on the Oxford so we rang them and arranged to meet tomorrow for lunch at the Wharf Inn, Fenny Compton.

Thu 29th September

Beautiful sunshine and pretty views as we continued along the summit pound.  No villages or busy roads.  Then our enjoyment was shaken as we came to a sign: You are about to go under HS2 high speed rail. This is the proposed new train route that will come thundering through this delightful corner of rural England. If this is really needed, why is the route not alongside the already noisy M1?  Apart from the high cost of building it, what price can be put on the loss of peaceful areas of countryside?  The local villages will not benefit at all as you can only get on or off at major cities like Birmingham or Glasgow.  Sign the petition at stop-hs2.co.uk.  We saw a flock of yellowhammers just after this. Will they stay around near a high speed railway?

We stopped near the Wharf Inn as planned, and Don and Celia arrived from the other direction on Tumzul Cloud soon after. They have spent a lot of time on the Thames this summer since we last saw them on the Erewash mission. We enjoyed a pleasant lunch together under a huge willow tree, after which we went our separate ways. It was very hot as we moored up at 4.15pm near Glebe Farm, shortly before Claydon Locks, which are only open between 10am and 2pm due to the water shortage.  After a few minutes baking in the sun we decided to move round the corner to the lock moorings where there was some shade.  We found two boats already there: Mine’s a pint and Tia, a boat selling ecological cleaning materials.  We had a pleasant evening sitting out in the warm weather.

Fri 30th September

An early mist gave way to warm sunshine once again, and as the lock opening time drew near, three more boats arrived, a total of six.  The man from BW arrived just before 10am, having already been to open the bottom lock.  We were third in the queue, and after the second lock, which we had to set first, the remaining locks all had boats coming the other way, so we didn’t have to set the locks or close the gates after ourselves.  We arrived in Cropredy and moored above the lock for an early lunch and to visit the shop for a few bits. Walking back to the boat we found Caroline Watsham on Scyeffe in the lock, also heading for Banbury Canal Day.  We moved on out of the village via the facilities block (which has an awkward mooring point) to Slat Mills Bridge.  Another warm evening sitting out on the front deck.  A tiny dinghy with an electric outboard engine came past, and he stopped to show us his folder of pictures.  The oars can be used as handles like a wheelbarrow to move the boat, and the whole thing can be put in a hatchback car.

Sat 1st October (October already? But it’s blazing hot!!)

It was very misty this morning and James went for an early walk up the hill to Williamscot to take some atmospheric photos.  The village is very small with stone built houses, and what appeared to be an old stone dovecote.  He followed a bridle path sign back towards the canal and came upon a large oak tree with several plaques on. They were memorials to musicians and presumably this tree was at the heart of the Fairport Cropredy Convention site. There were no more bridle path signs and James went the wrong way and had to climb over fences, following the route of the infant river Cherwell through what must be the grounds of Williamscot House before he came to a bridge across the river.  One more field brought him back to the canal. 

We set off at 9.30am and on the outskirts of Banbury we came upon Double Measures moored up. We had shared locks and moorings in Hertford on 7th May.  Sadly there was no one aboard.  We stopped at Tesco for Hazel to do some shopping and for James to wash the roof and sides of the boat and clear the leaves from under the floor matting at the stern. After lunch we cruised down through Banbury where we spotted Peter, Fran and Alex Braybrook with Sonflower.  We carried on through the lift bridge and the lock to the winding hole where we turned and went back to our mooring on Spiceball Park next to Sonflower.  That all took an hour, and the reason for turning round was to get the exhaust facing the canal and not the towpath.

We had not booked in as we did not want any deadlines to keep, but we always had the event in mind.  In the end the timing was perfect for us, and the Goodings on Shammah had dropped out, so we took their place.

We went to the boaters bash in the evening with the Braybrooks. Somehow this wasn’t as good as previous years, with small portions of lasagne, very poor acoustics, and the band, Laid Back Paddy Whack, made all the songs go at the same fastish speed.  We felt we were losing our voices as we tried to communicate with one another.  If we come to the event next year we will probably pass on this bit.

Sun 2nd October  -  Banbury Canal Day!

There was a heavy dew first thing, and woke up at 6am to the sounds of marquees and stalls being erected, and litter bins being banged into place.  James got up in time to move a litter bin from the centre of our patch to the other side of a bush.  The organisers had assumed we would have our service underneath the Tom Rolt Bridge where it has been for last year or two. That was only held there because it was wet. Today was sunny so we wanted to be outside on the grass.   We set up our PA system, using the power from Gabriel’s generator, with a power cable high above the towpath suspended by a parasol on the boat and a boat pole in the hedge.  It all worked very well except that one of our microphones chose today to fall apart. It now needs an expert with a tiny soldering iron.  We borrowed another from Peter’s church but until it arrived, after their morning service, we had to sing solo songs.

Peter and Fran had organised a quiz about the royal connections in Banbury.  Caroline (Scyeffe) had made a medieval tent and was making a paper prayer chain. We had lunch at one of the stalls (Thai green curry). When we returned to the BCF stall we found BCF stalwarts Julie Thorn and David and Anne Clark also there.  Peter and Fran sang some songs, so did we, and Caroline played the saw, which drew some crowds.

At 3pm we had our canalside service and forty songbooks went out, with some people sharing. Julie spoke about BCF and Peter preached, while we provided the music for the worship songs. There were crowds of people passing and the day was a great success.

We went for a meal with Peter and Fran in the evening.  As the pub we had chosen had stopped serving food, we ended up at an excellent Thai restaurant. (Thai green curry again!)  Good atmosphere, good food, good service, and reasonable prices.  Siam House, 48 Parsons Street.  Then back to Peter and Fran’s for coffees etc.
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Stanley Barnes on

You look to be almost on the home straight. We have vivid memories of the Oxford and boats stranded in the middle of the canal. Chrissie takes Communion tomorrow- numbers will be very low. The whole of the Guy family are in Scotland at Charlotte's wedding in some castle or another. Helen should have had her surgical boot off yesterday but we may see her because Vic will be playing the organ. So far as I know Derek is still in Ashford Hospital. Have a good journey home.. Stanley

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